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January 2011



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Carol A. Ranney 

New Year’s Day.  Valentine’s Day.  St. Patrick’s Day.  Memorial Day.  Independence Day.  Those special days through the year come with painful regularity.  Added to those are the special days we all remember as families—birthdays, anniversaries, the expected date of arrival of the new baby who came too early, summer vacation, the traditional trip to the mountains, the ocean, or to visit grandparents, and of course, Thanksgiving and Christmas, Hanukah, and other celebrated days.

These days which used to bring anticipation and joy now loom on the horizon as events to be endured.  Your mind is filled with memories of how things used to be, or remembering anticipated joy that was cut off before it happened.  The days leading up to the special day are stressful, and the day itself seems to stretch much longer than 24 hours.  The only pleasure is relief when it is past.

The key to making it through these days is planning.  When your mind is occupied ahead of time with constructing a plan for the day, you have much less time to dread its coming.  There are some holidays on which families may decide to leave town.  Christmas is one of those; it may seem much easier to be gone than to deal with invitations, festive events, and the celebrations going on around them.  If you do leave town over some painful holiday, be sure to put your efforts into planning what you will do as soon as you get home.

Most days, it’s not practical to pack up and leave.  Planning for what to do on an approaching holiday or other special time is as individual as bereaved parents are.  Working on a project, alone or with your spouse or surviving children, writing your memories, writing other grieving parents, scrapbooking, constructing a webpage in your child’s memory, planting a memory garden or buying a few plants for the garden you have already started, decorating your child’s grave with flowers, balloons, or something special to the occasion, releasing balloons (latex, not mylar), perhaps with notes in your child’s memory attached, doing an activity your child enjoyed, renting a movie that was special to your child, taking a family bike ride to a place your child liked to go, having a dinner of his or her favorite foods, only scratch the surface of what you might plan.  If you have other children, remember to include in your plans their desire on holidays to celebrate and have fun as well.  If you are interested in putting together a web page in memory of your child, Remembered By.Us is a Christian site that offers free hosting of memorial web pages.

One of the most helpful things I did for the first anniversary of my son’s death was to plan and submit a small notice to the local paper.  I debated for a long while about exactly what to say in it, and finally decided on his picture and the words from his favorite book, “Love You Forever, mom” and underneath, “xxoo.”  On the morning I had been dreading, I woke up with the thought that my son’s picture was on every kitchen table in the city, and wondered how many people who knew him would see it, remember him, and know that he was not forgotten by those who loved him.  Over the next few weeks a number of people mentioned seeing it.  That little notice turned a day I had anticipated with dread into a really pleasant and peaceful day.

Another year, we were at Disneyland on the anniversary date, so we bought a bunch of balloons, wrote messages on them with markers, and released them in an area of the park that my son had especially enjoyed.  He was buried on July 2, when there are a lot of “star” balloons in the stores, so I always try to take a bunch of star balloons to the cemetery around July 4th.

Don’t leave the decision as to how to spend the day until the last minute; the time and thought you put into making your plans, assembling what you will need, thinking of how you will remember your child through whatever you choose to do, will help calm your anxiety, fill your time and give you a positive focus.  You may not happily anticipate the day, but you will have the tools you need to spend the time in a meaningful way that honors your child and leaves you with peaceful memories.

Broken Hearts, Living Hope
is a free newsletter distributed worldwide to families who have lost a child of any age, to any cause.  Publish your story, link up with others who have had a similar loss, read helpful articles and comforting poems.  Download a subscription form from the website.

Resources for Grieving Families

Resources for Siblings

Infant Loss

Miscarriage Loss

Child Death: Specific Causes

Military Death Resources

Survival Resources for Those in Crisis


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